President Donald Trump lambasted “Chuck and Nancy” and told supporters in Tennessee at a rally on Tuesday that Democratic Senate candidate Phil Bredesen would do the bidding of Democratic congressional leaders.
Trump was in Nashville to campaign for Bredesen’s Republican opponent, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, in the race to replace the retiring Sen. Bob Corker.
“I never heard of this guy, who is he? Who is he?” Trump said of Bredesen. “He’s an absolute, total tool of Chuck – of Chuck Schumer. He’s a tool of Chuck Schumer and of course the MS-13 lover Nancy Pelosi.”
Bredesen is, in fact, a popular former Nashville mayor and Tennessee governor, but he last ran for public office in 2006. He has led Blackburn in recent polls.
Trump latched Bredesen to Schumer, the Senate minority leader, and Pelosi, the House minority leader, as well as former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
“If Bredesen were ever to get elected,” Trump said, “he would do whatever Chuck and Nancy – remember the term, ‘Chuck and Nancy?’ They don’t want the wall, they want open borders, they’re more interested in taking care of criminals than they are of taking care of you – Bredesen donated a lot of money to the campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.”
“Crooked Hillary,” Trump added, as the crowd chanted “lock her up.”
Trump also claimed that Pelosi “loves MS-13,” the gang whose members Trump claimed are being deported “by the thousands.”
Pelosi criticized the President’s use of the term “animals,” although it appeared she was referencing reports that suggested Trump was referring to all undocumented immigrants. Trump says he was referring to MS-13 gang members when he used the term.
Reached for comment, Drew Hammill, deputy chief of staff for Pelosi, responded to Trump’s comments by pointing to a PolitiFact article that said Trump’s claim that Pelosi came out in favor of MS-13 was false.
Trump also turned his reference to members of the MS-13 gang as “animals” into a campaign rallying cry.
“They’re not human beings. They’re not human beings. And this is why we call the blood-thirsty MS-13 gang members exactly the name I used last week,” Trump said.
“What was the name?” he asked.
“Animals,” the crowd responded.
Trump is popular in Tennessee too. He trounced Hillary Clinton there in 2016, winning 61% of the vote to Clinton’s 35%. A recent Vanderbilt University poll showed that Trump has a 53% approval rating, with 43% disapproving of his performance.
The Tennessee race has major implications for control of the Senate, where Republicans have a 51 to 49 majority and can afford a net loss of just one seat in November’s midterm elections. Democrats are eyeing Nevada, Arizona, Tennessee and even potentially Texas as possible pick-up opportunities. But the party is also defending 10 seats in states Trump won in 2016 – five of which Trump won by double digits.
Corker greeted Trump at the airport in Nashville and attend the night’s events with the President. When Trump introduced Corker at the rally, he was met with audible boos from the audience.
Corker had been a thorn in Republicans’ side in the race to replace him, calling Bredesen a friend and only offering a tepid endorsement of Blackburn.
For Trump, the trip to Tennessee comes as part of a ramped-up midterm travel schedule. He has recently hit the road to rail against endangered Senate Democrats, including Indiana’s Joe Donnelly and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin.
Trump also repeated his 2016 campaign pledge that Mexico will pay for the construction of a wall along the United States’ southern border.
“In the end, Mexico is going to pay for the wall, I’m just telling you that,” he said, pointing to negotiations to change the North American Free Trade Agreement.
He blamed the Mexican government for a recent caravan of Central American migrants who arrived at the US border seeking asylum.
“They make all of this money, and they do absolutely nothing to stop people from going through Mexico from Honduras and all these other countries – the caravan, all of this stuff – they do nothing to help us, nothing,” Trump added. “They’re going to pay for the wall and they’re going to enjoy it, OK? They’re going to enjoy it. They do nothing for us.”
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto responded on Twitter Tuesday night.
“President @realDonaldTrump: NO. Mexico will NEVER pay for a wall. Not now, not ever. Sincerely, Mexico (all of us).”
CNN’s Ashley Killough contributed to this report.